U.S. News

Colorado man faces new charges for plotting to bomb synagogue

DENVER (Reuters) - An avowed white supremacist being held without bond for plotting to bomb a Colorado synagogue this month has been indicted on additional charges of attempted arson and using explosives to commit a felony, federal prosecutors said on Friday.

Richard Holzer is seen in this undated handout photo provided by the El Paso County SheriffÕs Office. El Paso County SheriffÕs Office/Handout via REUTERS

The two additional charges against Richard Holzer, 27, on top of an earlier count of attempting to obstruct religious services by force, could send him to prison for 50 years, U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn said in a statement.

Holzer was arrested on Nov. 4 after an undercover sting by FBI agents, who said he plotted to bomb the Temple Emanuel synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado. The temple, built in 1900, is the second oldest synagogue in the state and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Colorado Federal Public Defender’s Office, which represents Holzer, declined to comment.

Hate crimes in the United States jumped by 17 percent and anti-Jewish attacks spiked 37 percent in 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the FBI.

Holzer’s arrest came just over a year after the worst attack on a Jewish community in U.S. history when a lone gunman opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018, killing 11 people.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, FBI agents tracked Holzer’s social media accounts in which he allegedly professed a hatred of Jews, and exchanged “white supremacy ideology ... including racially-motivated acts of violence” with like-minded individuals.

“I wish the Holocaust really did happen ... they need to die,” Holzer said in one posting, the affidavit said.

Posing as fellow white supremacists, the undercover agents then contacted Holzer via a Facebook message and he sent them photos of a swastika and pictures of himself wearing clothing with white supremacy symbols and phrases, the FBI said.

Agents later met with Holzer, who lived in Pueblo, and he broached the idea of bombing the synagogue, the affidavit said. The FBI provided him with inert pipe bombs and dynamite to see if he was serious about carrying out the plot.

Following his arrest, Holzer waived his right to remain silent and told investigators he wanted to bomb the temple because it was “a cancer” in Pueblo, a city of 112,000 about 100 miles south of Denver.

Holzer is set to appear before a federal magistrate judge on Monday to be advised of the new charges.

Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Daniel Wallis